Introduction: Honing 101: Hone Your Knives in 3 Simple Steps

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Knife maintenance can be broken down into four main tasks: sharpening, stropping, storing and honing. Out of these 4 tasks, it could be argued that honing is one of the most important. To really emphasize why that is, let's try to understand what happens every time you use your knife. Let's assume you are doing something as simple as meal prep i.e. slicing onions and tomatoes on a cutting board, preparing chicken etc. What do you think happens to your cutting edge as a result of these tasks? What happens is that you throw your edge out of alignment, so instead of being straight, one side has folded over and the result is a bent edge. Remember, steel may seem hard to the touch but it can still be bent (especially the cutting edge). Back to the subject of honing....honing a knife has the primary function of correcting a misaligned edge, so that it's straight and not bent. If you're interested in reading more about honing, I encourage you to visit:

Now that you know why it's important, let's talk about how to hone properly!

Step 1: Get a Honing Rod & Get Your Angles Right!

If you haven't already got a honing rod, what are you waiting for! Go get one! Many people are in favor of ceramic or diamond rods, but I prefer simple, old school steel. Not arguing that one is better than the other, I just prefer steel over ceramic because it's less harder and less aggressive. Not sure which one to get? You can't go wrong with a 9'' J.A Henckels. You can find it on amazon or your closest Walmart. Messermeister and Wusthof also make some good ones.

Don't Be Afraid Of Angles!

All the experts complicate the heck out of honing, when really it's pretty simple. Here's the all important rule: you hone at the same angle your edge is set at. For example, if your edge was set at a thick 22 degrees (44 inclusive), then you would hone at a 22 degree angle. If you had a super thin Japanese knife set at 12 degrees, then hone at 12 degrees. That's all there is to it! How do you measure your angle?Hold the rod vertically and have it's tip resting on a soft towel. Now, hold your knife perpendicular to the rod. That's 90 degrees AKA your reference point. Half of this is 45, and half of this is 22.5. Boom, you're in business!

Step 2: Hone Away!

Okay, let's hone! Here's what you need to do:

  • Grip the honing rod with one hand, and your knife with the other. Start by placing the heel of your blade at the top of the rod. Figure 1 above explains this better.
  • Now all you need to do is pull downwards from heel to tip taking care to maintain a consistent angle all the way through. If you're unsure about angles, refer back to step 1 where I talk about this in greater detail. Apply minimal pressure and let the weight of your knife do the work. Figure 2 above depicts this.

Step 3: Repeat on the Other Side

All you have to do now is replicate everything you did in step 2, to the other side of the blade (see figure 3). Remember, downwards from heel to tip, consistent angle, and minimal pressure. So you'll do a single pass on each side and then alternate. Complete a total of 4 passes on each side i.e. 8 swipes in total.

And that's it! 3 simple steps to hone your knife. It's so easy, it can be done by literally anyone. One more thing: You should try to hone before every meal prep. The best way to do this is to make a habit out of it. Place the honing rod such that it is easily accessible in your kitchen. Your blade will thank you for it! Lastly, when you find that honing your knife has no effect in restoring the edge, that's when you know it's time to sharpen. Note: sharpening a knife results in steel removal; honing does not remove steel. Knife sharpening instructable coming soon...stay tuned! Leave me any questions below, and if this helped you please favorite and share. Cheers!